Silk Embroidered World War I Postcards

June 20, 2014 | Jessica

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My favourite part of the Toronto Reference Library's postcard collection are its silk embroidered WW1 era postcards.

Tous Unis WW1 silk postcard

With the 100thanniversary of WW1 upon us, they are very timely reminders of earlier times. These unique postcards were sent home by soldiers to their loved ones. Instead of regular post mail, many of these WW1 silks were sent back home via military mail pouches, eliminating the need for postage stamps.

The delicate nature of silk embroidery stands in contrast to the gruesome realities of the First World War.

Greetings From France WW1 sillk postcard Forget me not WW1 silk postcard

Within TRL’s postcard collection, there is a series of embroidered postcards written to a Miss Nellie Earl of 576 Pape Ave. in Toronto. Two of these greetings were sent from France by an individual named Geo in 1918.  Geo, short for George, may have been a relative, a friend, or perhaps more.

Nellie WWI silk postcard blue diagonal overlay

Nellie WWI silk postcard blue diagonal overlay backside

Above is a third postcard addressed to Nellie, and dated May 1917, but this time signed by Reg, a soldier stationed at Witley Military Training Camp in Surrey England.  Could this be the same Nellie? It’s hard to say for sure, but we like to think so.

  A Kiss From France WW1 silk postcard with opened envelope Home sweet home WW1 silk postcard

Some of the silk postcards in our library’s collection also have pouches in front, containing either small printed greetings or handkerchiefs within them. I was excited to see these kinds of embroidered handkerchiefs featured on the popular BBC WW1 drama Crimson Field. In one particular episode, the matron of a field hospital embroidered one for a patient awaiting a court martial trial – a simple gesture which for me helped to drive home the personal nature of these kinds of artifacts.

Good luck black cat WW1 silk postcard with closed envelope

    Good luck black cat WW1 silk postcard with opened envelope

There are many websites that feature collections of WW1 silk postcards. I feel fortunate to have the chance to handle them in person at the Toronto Reference Library. If you have any interest in viewing these, or some of the other gems of our collection, please drop by the Arts Department on the 5th floor to inquire.

Want to learn more about TPL’s extensive and unique postcard collection? Below is a list of blog posts highlighting some of the other items in the Arts Department’s postcard collection:

A Kiss From France WW1 silk postcard   Home sweet home WW1 silk postcard closed
R.I.R. WW1 silk postcard with closed envelope  Happy Christmas WW1 silk postcard